Snow cones, summer and trust

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2005

As we hear from our local government about why we should trust them about raising taxes, tolls, and fees to support transportation issues in the area, its apparent that there are many more questions concerning these issues than answers.

With Tidewater ranked second in the nation for summertime traffic snarls, something must be done to resolve these needs.

Even if these issues are honestly represented, they suffer greatly due to the failed aspects we have in trusting our local leaders, after they have let us down so many times.

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Trust has been trod into the ground of late due to the dishonest way that the issues of real estate assessments and taxes have been mishandled time after time.

This decline of trust is like watching a snow cone melt on a hot summer day; it is both unrelenting and messy.

As the council has faltered in their duty to apply some rational fairness and honesty to the situation, they now have obviously spent their allotment of trust with the citizens when they may need it the most.

This issue is a direct exercise in the least productive way possible that a leadership group can loose the initiative to lead, by dishonestly representing situations to those who should be lead.

One tenet of governing is that; you can not misrepresent the situation when the facts are as clear as they are with assessments and real estate taxes, or you squander the currency of trust with the people.

This is where our city council and others in the area now find themselves &uot;up the creek without a paddle&uot; on I-64.

By telling less than the truth for political purposes in support of political initiatives this spring, our local leaders are now in the difficult situation of not being able to rally support for real needs.

By squandering the scarce commodity of trust and allowing some to have their cake earlier, the mayor and others now are having a difficult time gathering the support needed for real issues like transportation projects under review by the Metropolitan Planning Commission.

There is a real necessity in our area concerning regional transportation needs and some method or process must be initiated to resolve it.

This is in contrast to the way that our local leadership has lost their way these last few years. It is uncertain that they have the moxey to rally the support it will take to convince the masses that they need more of their money given the significant failures of late.

Coming off the latest round of budget failures just a few weeks ago, the mayor has stated that the people should trust him and others to spend billions of dollars more for five major road projects.

Given the manner that spending has been so polarized in Suffolk and other communities, it is uncertain that there will be the political will to believe the story being told.

The situation is like the little boy who cried wolf time after time, where our local leaders have told us that they need to spend on hotels, marinas, cultural arts centers, investment properties, golf courses, and the like.

Now when they really need our trust for a serious initiative, it is most likely not going to be given.

The transportation needs that were spoken of during the last city council work-session are worthy, however given the past performance of this group it is doubtful that the people are any more trusting than they were two years ago during the transportation referendum.

This region has roads tied into a tight knot, and it is apparent that there are real needs to invest in additional infrastructure to build our way out of the present gridlock we suffer.

Even given this compelling situation, it is obvious that the past dishonest way the local leadership chose to represent themselves, it looks like there is no way that the people will tolerate new taxes, tolls, fees, or more spending to alleviate the problems.

This self inflicted wound that the mayor tried to discuss without much acuity at the last meeting, exhibits why the issue will most likely not be resolved soon.

It is time that our local officials look beyond the immediate needs that the city manager places before them and recognizes that leadership takes a longer time horizon than the next budget.

Real leadership, which has been in short supply in Suffolk for the last few years, takes looking at the longer term.

With the present myopic view held by the city administration that spending all they can get is good in itself, is clearly bankrupt given the real needs we have.

To continue squandering scarce resources for questionable things as defined above, why should we now trust them when they cry wolf about transportation needs?

It is clear that the people do not trust the mayor’s statement that more taxes and fees must be raised for transportation, even if they are setting in bumper to bumper traffic.

This situation will only change if we have honest and defined leadership that places a higher value on trust, than on spending all they can get all of the time.

Roger Leonard is a Suffolk businessman and regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at